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Anatomy of Oscar: Nothing Gels, and No Surprises

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Well, it's certainly evident the Oscar show organizers wanted to do something really different this time around.

In a year when a movie about the past was competing against a movie very much about the present for top prize, the producers were clearly trying to bridge old and young, the traditional with the tweeters, you might say.

Problem was, their strategy was showing, and it felt flat.

The show tried too hard to be topical, cute and tongue-in-cheek, and though it offered scattered moments of freshness at the start, it soon curdled.

It's good James Franco is a famous movie actor; he need never fall back on his MC talents. As to Anne Hathaway, she sure is a trouper. She'll even let her Mom correct her posture from the audience. (Awwww).

This was all very calculated but it missed the point, which past successful hosts like Billy Crystal and Bob Hope understood. You need a solid, charismatic, funny presence to carry this show -- and importantly, someone who's standing on the outside of the proceedings (unlike the distracted Mr. Franco or the annoyingly perky Miss Hathaway).

Compounding this fundamental misdirection at the helm was the fact that the awards themselves offered absolutely no surprises -- not one.

Melissa Leo's obnoxious self-promotion campaign did not backfire, but won her the prize she so coveted as Best Supporting Actress. Her graceless acceptance allowed her public to see what the insiders mean by "obnoxious", as she emoted loudly and dropped an "F" bomb. Personally, I much prefer her in character.

Most everyone I spoke to had predicted Colin Firth and Christian Bale would get the Actor prizes -- and ho hum -- they did. Thinking Bale's performance criminally overrated, I had hoped we might hear Geoffrey Rush's name called, but that would have been a surprise... and this was no year for surprises, certainly not welcome ones.

(James Franco in drag -- hello?)

Of course, Natalie Portman was a shoo-in for Best Actress in a movie I thought was among the most over-praised of the pack. I had hoped Annette Bening would snag the statuette on her fourth nomination. But in Hollywood at least, the adage age before beauty rarely holds sway.

So -- The King's Speech got the four most important awards (Picture, Actor, Director, Original Screenplay), The Social Network snagged three (Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score), and the impenetrable Inception got four (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects).

Oh -- and Toy Story-3 won Best Animated Feature. I was on pins and needles over that one.

It was interesting to note that with all those Best Picture nods, nearly half those titles took home nothing: True Grit, Winter's Bone, 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right.

Well, there's always the after-party.

Now don't get me wrong -- all is not doom and gloom.

I am happy that The King's Speech took Best Picture; this was the most positive outcome of the whole night.

Perhaps, as Saturday's New York Times suggests ("Graying Audience Returns To Movies"), Hollywood is finally seeing the value of courting an older demographic which favors witty and intelligent stories over special effects laden comic book adventures.

l do hope this encouraging sign becomes a sustained trend.

As to the Awards show itself, I think it's back to the drawing board.

"Bob Hope -- are you up there? We need you!"

Correction: I have removed the paragraph about Justin Timberlake's joke concerning Kirk Douglas. Upon further review, this comment wasn't related to Douglas's stroke and I regret the error.

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